Toronto needs a united voice for building projects

ALISON KORN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

Coming soon -- more hockey arenas, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, and swimming pools. That is, if we can agree on priorities.

The amateur sport community is cheering over this week's federal budget that promises a new $500 million fund for the longstanding national infrastructure deficit in sport and recreation. Provinces, municipalities, community sport organizations, and the private sector may all apply for 50/50 in matching funds to renew and build facilities.

But for Toronto to benefit, one united voice will work better than a hodge-podge of competing requests. And we're not there yet. That's according to Karen Pitre, founding director of the Toronto Sports Council, a non-profit organization that promotes community sport and facilities.

"How do we get the money to flow is the big challenge," Pitre said. "Who decides what projects get funded? I don't know that anybody's figured it out. My fear is it will take two years for anyone to agree."

There are so many needs and the pot is so big. Will the funds focus more on renovations, or new community centres and rinks? Is it better to build one new pool or fix 15 old ones? And who will be deemed more worthy -- school boards, sports groups or municipalities? Everyone has their own wish list and, as Pitre put it, "somebody's got to figure out what that priority list is."

With specific references to the 1967 Centennial year building boom, the budget highlighted in detail the need for "hockey arenas, soccer fields, tennis and basketball courts, and swimming pools" as examples for upgrading, renewal and building.

The new program will be delivered through regional development agencies. The budget states the allocation of funds will be based on merit and "shovel readiness."

Three big goals drive the fund -- economic stimulus, quality facilities, and national spirit.

"This is the right thing at the right time for Canada," said Ian Bird, senior leader of the Sport Matters Group. "This program promises to strengthen our communities, encourage individual participation and sporting excellence, and stimulate economic development."

The money also presents opportunities for investment in regional sport institutes that offer services to high performance athletes training for Olympic and Paralympic Games. Possibly, Toronto's Pan Am 2015 bid could get in on it, as well as the ambitious sports institute planned in Markham.

The association of national team athletes, AthletesCAN, also praised the budget.

"AthletesCAN is very pleased that our Canadian athletes will have greater access to high quality training facilities that support excellence," president Andrew Nisker said. "This funding will go a long way in helping Canadian athletes reach their full potential on the international stage."

The athletes group also liked the new $50 million for a national foreign credential recognition framework.

This could mean investment in newcomer coaches to acquire their National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) certification or Charter of Professional Coaches (Ch.P.C.) designation, the highest designation awarded by Coaches of Canada.

Get ready to shout

The Vancouver Olympics organizing committee wants everyone to make some noise at exactly 6:00 p.m. on Feb. 12, to help celebrate the one-year countdown to the start of the 2010 Olympic Games.

The plan is for the noise to roll like a wave across the country as the clock strikes 6:00 p.m. in each of Canada's six time zones.

VANOC has created a One-Year Countdown Celebration Toolkit to serve as a quick and easy inspirational tool to help get each community started on planning its own events.


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